Canada has a case of the measles.
If you’ve turned on the TV, opened a newspaper, or scanned through the radio at any point over the last few months, chances are you were hit with measles talk. “Measles Hysteria” some have called it. Report after report of schools asking kids to stay home, talk about travelers and immigrants bringing measles in through our borders, and debates over the merits of vaccination. It’s all anyone can seem to talk about…
Recently, I read an article that featured a quote from a concerned Canadian parent. This particular quote represents a sentiment I have heard often since all the measles talk began last year:
If my kid isn’t allowed to bring a peanut butter sandwich to school, why should other kids be allowed to bring the measles to school?
This parent, like many others quoted in the media and active on messages boards, has chosen to compare the dangers of food allergies in an effort to support their views on how unvaccinated children should be treated by the Government.
Let me be clear: this is not an article about vaccination. This is an article about the choices we make as loving parents and responsible Canadian citizens.
So please, I beg of you: stop the peanuts vs. measles comparison.
Because while some parents have stated “I can’t bring peanut butter to school” The reality is that you could. But you choose not to. You choose to support a student with a severe allergy, and make sure they have a safe place to get their education.
My sincerest thanks to all of you out there who tolerate and respect peanut-free schools, even if you don’t want to. Those of you that take the time to explain to your kids why they can only eat PB&J’s at home and not at school. That ensure the cookies and other birthday treats you make for the kiddos are all nut-free, even if most of us would agree that peanut butter cookies are delicious!
Whether you recognize it or not, you are making a world of difference for my daughter and others like her. With all that Elle has to miss out on because of her allergy, it would kill me if she couldn’t even attend school with her friends like a “normal” child. Thankfully, by the selfless actions of those like yourself, she doesn’t have to.
So, thank you for being inconvenienced. Thank you for teaching your kids about making accommodations for others, even when they might not feel like it. Your sacrifices with something as benign as removing peanuts from your child’s lunch literally changes everything for those like my daughter.
While the percentage of kids with a life-threatening peanut allergy may be small, always remember that the impact of your collective actions on these littles ones is massive. And as a parent who constantly has to worry about the allergies of her daughter, I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am for you and the choices you make to ensure her life is a little bit safer.
How bad is bad?
My daughter was diagnosed with an acute peanut allergy. Her doctors made it very clear to us that this was not an aversion or irritation, but a life-threatening allergy…one so severe that contact with as little as 1/10,000 of a single peanut could trigger a reaction that closes her airways.
Upon diagnosis, we were immediately equipped with EpiPen’s and told that not one, but two must be with Elle at all times. Not as a backup or a precaution, but because one dose may not be enough to counteract the reaction she would have if she came into contact with peanuts.
Doctors informed us that even with extreme caution, the odds that my daughter would come into contact with peanuts at some point during her childhood (and subsequently trigger a reaction) is about 25%. And if this ever were to occur, her chances of survival could be… I can’t even write about it. How long before may daughter knows something is wrong, how soon the EpiPen’s are administered, how far she is from the nearest emergency room; all of these would be vital variables in the outcome, with the difference between a safe recovery and something much worse being counted in seconds, not minutes.
I cannot begin to describe how painful it is to write about this, but it unfortunately has become our family’s reality. We have explained in great detail to my daughter how careful she must be. How she is never to eat anything that isn’t labeled and verified by an adult. That she must wash vigorously before she sits down for any meal or snack, lest a speck of peanut or peanut oil from a table or chair found its way onto her hands. How she is never to travel without her EpiPen’s. Her teachers and school staff are all aware of the severity of her condition as well. In fact, anytime the school calls me (more often than not about my son taking a tumble on the playground), they know they must start each call with “Your daughters OK, but…”.
Birthday parties. Family meals at restaurants. Playdates with friends. All of these are things my daughter has had to give up in the name of safety.
Even with all of this, my heart still skips a beat every time I see the school calling. I get a chill when she’s at school and I hear an ambulance roll by. I’m always left wondering is today going to be the day when it happens?
Why am I sharing all of this with you? What does this have to do with the measles?
Like the measles, peanut allergies have been a polarizing topic in the media over the last few years. And similar to the current climate, the debate between parents with differing viewpoints has exploded, with many calling “peanut-free zones” at schools and other areas an infringement on their freedoms. That “peanut allergies aren’t real” or that “we shouldn’t have to all suffer because of a couple of kids.” In November, a mom in Ontario went as far as to open up an online petition to reverse her local school’s peanut-free policy, asking fellow parents: “Why do you allow your food choices to be limited by the minority?”
And here’s the thing – even as a mom of a young girl with one of the strongest peanut allergies known to man – I can understand where these parents are coming from. Truth be told, I LOVE peanut butter sandwiches. And as a parent, I understand that they are a fast, easy and inexpensive way to fill your kids with protein and other vital nutrients.
And while yes, the percentage of kids with peanut allergies is single digits (and the likelihood of allergies as severe as my daughters is even more rare), as someone who has spoken with countless doctors about the life-threatening reaction that my daughter may encounter throughout her life, I promise you that our peanut nightmare is very much real.
Flipping the conversation
So please keep talking about the measles, it’s an important conversation. And please keep talking about allergies, another important element affecting daily life. But please, let’s stop comparing the two.
To learn more about me and my family visit: https://adventureawaits.ca/start-here/